A Perth Internet tycoon, who splashed $1 million on his wedding and flew his wife to party with Snoop Dogg for her birthday, is facing fraud allegations in the US.
Zhenya Tsvetnenko has been indicted over an alleged plot to defraud mobile phone customers, by charging them extra for ‘premium’ text messages, without permission.
The 36-year-old has denied the allegations, but could face up to 20 years in prison if he is found guilty.
Tsvetnenko, reportedly worth $100 million, could also be charged with conspiracy to commit money laundering, according to news.com.au.
Tsvetnenko and his wife Lydia, are a familiar face on Perth’s social pages.
The couple were known for throwing extravagant parties for each other, reportedly spending $1 million on their 2008 wedding, which saw Lydia arrive in a princess-style carriage.
For Tsvetnenko’s 30th birthday, his party reportedly featured ice sculptures of his Lamborghini and Ferrari and a birthday cake of his face on a US100 dollar bill.
For Lydia’s 29th birthday, she was reportedly flown to Hollywood to party with Snoop Dogg.
The couple was admired for Tsvetnenko’s rags to riches story.
Less than a decade earlier, he was a university drop out with just $200 to his name.
The Internet entrepreneur built his fortune based on his automated SMS services and a Bitcoin business.
His wife co-runs Perth fashion label Zhivago – which has dressed the likes of the Kardashians and The Veronicas.
Last Friday, Tsvetnenko’s world came crashing down when he landed a place on top of the US justice department’s hit-list.
The Southern District of New York US Attorney’s Office alleged that between 2011-13, Tsvetnenko, and at least seven other people, took part in a process called “auto-subscribing”, defrauding mobile phone customers without their consent.
The text message services included horoscopes, trivia facts and Hollywood gossip.
It’s alleged customers were charged about $13 a month for the service, a fee that was embedded into phone bills.
It’s claimed hundreds of thousands of phone numbers were auto subscribed to the service.
This allegedly generated millions of dollars in revenue.
Australians Michael Pearse and Yongchao (Kevin) Liu, were charged over the alleged scheme months ago.
Last week US prosecutors announced three more men had been charged: Tsvetnenko, Francis Assifuah and Fraser Thompson, a former executive at company Mobile Messenger.
Tsvetnenko has not been arrested and plans to fight extradition.
In 2006, he was ordered to give undertakings to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission over concerns his text message SecureDate service was engaging in deceptive conduct.
The flamboyant businessman is well-known in WA investment circles, with multiple shareholdings across a range of businesses.
News break – July 28